5.   You need to model your life after the 17th Karmapa

 

            Since Momoko would be getting sexed long into the night I took advantage of the place being all mine.  I turned up the music, poured the remaining Syrah. Our loft space always made me feel refreshed.  We usually had fresh cut flowers from the Brooklyn farmer’s market—and I picked out a variation of white flowers; either white roses, calla lilies, tuberose, or just an enormous pile of baby’s breath.  I also used the color white in big overstuffed feather pillows, curtains and a white table cloth and it did in fact have a refreshing feeling against the rustic nature of the coffee table and the buildings’ accoutrements.  Large art books, literature classics, and lots of books on French and Japanese new wave covered the walls, and the place held the smell of jasmine pearl tea that brewed throughout the day and night. I put the water on.

            My most treasured part of our loft was my curtained-off workspace.  Going behind the curtain sometimes made me feel like the sirens to Odysseus so taking my fresh pot of tea and my glass of wine I headed for the little den, suddenly feeling like the Wizard of Oz.

            Inside my workspace there were no feng shui gods at work; it was like an antique shop full of chotchkies, little trinkets in every available spot. Chinese porcelain heads, wooden plumeria flowers painted yellow and pink, fake pearls hanging alongside sharks’ teeth, old star-constellation maps, pikake and amber scented perfume in little glass bottles, a dramatic candelabra, frankincense, a little wooden box that held ash from a sacred holy site, old postcards; just a sampling of the things collected and stashed in my secret, closeted utopia. I stood in the middle of this magic wardrobe womb, it’s antique, non-fussy nature incredibly relaxing, a safe zone. I drew the curtain behind me, lit a few candles and some of my mysterious incense, fluffed up the pillows on the main chair and sipped my wine as the day began to melt away.  It all seemed impermanent behind this little curtained area. I felt like a little kid who plays behind the Christmas tree when the bubble lights and ornaments and wrapped gifts illuminate a special world of wonder. 

            I sifted through various papers and notes, scraps of inspiration from magazine and newspaper clippings, looking for the common thread in the things I collected. A boy holding his head laughing. The sun setting behind the moon, eclipsing it. Sharks in a feeding frenzy.  Indian gurus meditating with piles and piles of bright yellow marigolds proffered at their feet. I sipped my tea and opened the book I’d just purchased, pushing aside pens, papers, brushes, and paints that were scattered across the enormous work desk. Amadou, Momoko’s Persian cat, jumped up on the table and headed to take a nap right in the middle of my cleared space but I picked her up and poured her onto the small loveseat next to me.

            I flipped open The Rainbow Goblins and started to reread the story of my childhood.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to accomplish in this magic little den. It felt so good to be surrounded by creative implements. I hadn’t used a paint brush or an ink pen since craft time in elementary school. It felt foreign, yet simple and happy. Like a child’s chest of playthings it was a harmless place.  I thought about all that color I saw walking up Madison Avenue. I tried to picture the sensation of that, to feel the texture of the soft silks on my arms, the rouched fabric, the tulle, the chiffon. There was something about that drowning sensation of all the delicious color. A tsunami of color.

            As I turned to page two, my phone beeped with a text message from Jack. It read: I miss u, where r u/up 2?  I put the book down and texted him back: Will call in a bit, just got home. X. Then I put my phone down and it started ringing again, this time my mother.

            “Mom. Hi.” 

             “Honey-star! What’re you doing right now?” My mother’s New Age voice rang into the phone and I turned the volume on my headset down.

            “Just fiddling around. You?” I picked up a paintbrush and rolled it back and forth between my fingers.

            “Now listen, I want to tell you about something.  I was just reading an article about the market of Harry Potter readers and how they need another great book to get into. Are you paying attention, this is very important.”

            “Mom, of course.” I prepared for another lecture about saving the world, cleansing chakras, sage-smudging my house, taking flower remedies, and any other tidbit of hippy-lore she would proffer.

            “The article said these readers wanted something more adult, more spiritual.  So I got to thinking and then it dawned on me.  I think in your downtime between work you should write the spiritual version of Harry Potter. Hmm? To ply the masses from dull dragon-slaying books and move them toward the light.  I’ve already started an outline for you on some yellow legal pages that I’m mailing to you but you have to promise not to lose them as they’re my only copy. What do you think? Hmm? Like Ghandi said, we must be the change we want to see, Rosalie-hon.” 

            I had to smile at my mother’s never-ending agendas she liked to bestow on me. “I don’t know, Mom. Spiritual Harry Potter? Sounds like it’s right up your alley.”

            “Oh Rosalie,” my mother sighed.  “You need to utilize your life, you need to move forward. Now’s the time to seize the day. Carpe Diem, Rosalie!  I always wanted you to be a foreign ambassador, a real Mother Teresa for the world and you need to make an effort to help this world. You need to be a foreign diplomat and unite the world. You need to model your life after the 17th Karmapa. He’s my hero, you know.”

            “Mom. I know.” He was practically the Second Coming of Christ to her. 

            “Well, you do. You need to do some things. I’ve made you a list too. A list of things you need to do. One is this book idea, I’m gonna need you to write out the first version, the other on the list is the Mother-Daughter spiritual quest book. Remember that camping trip we went on?”

I grabbed my wine and tea and the cat and exited the curtained utopia for the futon-couch in the living room. “And that was a very long time ago. I was thirteen.”

            “I’m still waiting for your memoir about it. About the Native American coming of age rituals we did for you and your friends. The sweat lodge. The teaching of your Moon Cycle. Really, Rosalie, these things are pivotal. People need to know about these things.”  

            “Mother.” I knew she was waiting for my spiritual epiphany where I’d decide Princess Di really was the incarnation of the Divine and that if I knew what was good for me I’d start wearing knee socks, going to church on Sundays, get engaged to an Astor and pause only to feed starving children and write spiritual Harry Potter. I then imagined myself in toga and olive branch wreath floating over the air carrying a burning torch, lighting the way for millions, parachute dropping two-ton loads of spiritual Harry Potter into the Congo. I was such a far cry from helping anyone, let alone myself. Didn’t she realize that?

            “Just work on it. Stay busy. Get motivated. Climb out of your hole, Honey, one step at a time.”

            “Am I in a hole, Mom? I wasn’t aware I was in a hole. Maybe a steady stream of nothing, but a hole? Kind of dramatic.”

            “You know what I mean. You need an exit strategy and a new job. Pronto.”

            I decided to change the subject. “Veronica just got engaged to Benjamin and I’m going to their engagement party.”

            “Wonderful. See? She’s on her path. Grad school at Berkeley, bought her own house right out of college and now engaged! See, honey. It’s not impossible. You can do it.”

            I sighed.

            “You’ll visit us soon, won’t you?”

            I assured her that I would of course come visit her and dad and she made me promise to mull over the spiritual Harry Potter idea.

            “Honey, one more thing. When do you think you might be getting engaged? Hmm? I don’t want to pry, but you know, the clock is ticking.  Jack’s a great guy. You can keep your own bank account and last name and have a family, you know. You don’t have to give up your power just to let a guy in. We are in the modern era.”

            “Mom, don’t go there right now. I'm 21.”

            “Okay, I won’t worry, just forget about that for now. You’ve got things to accomplish first!  Oh, and one more thing, Honey.   I think this is great. Use this moment. Really. This can be a kicking off place.  A moment of self-understanding. Where you can change. Where you can decide to make a conscious choice. You know, like I’ve always said, if you don’t speak up, then you’re just as bad as what’s happening around you. You’ve got to take a stand and fight for what you want. Understand?”

            “Yes. No. What? I don’t know.”

            I hung up, feeling the creative wind completely deflated from my sails.

            God.

            I went over to the mirror and looked into my eyes, searching for signs of life.

            Was I in a hole? The worst hole of my 21-year old life?

            I tried to pick up Amadou for comfort but she whimpered and clawed her way out of my reach, under the sofa. I thought about how Veronica said you get what you want and Ghandi and my mother telling me I must be the change I want to see.  I looked over at my art area trying to see it through the eyes of my mother. She would just think of it like a cute hobby, like a fun de-stresser after a day at a real job. 

            All the wind. Out of my sails. 

            I flipped on the TV but it was just awful reality shows.   I flipped it off and went to seek consolation in the kitchen, only to discover that Momoko had finished the rest of my dark chocolate mousse.

            I slumped onto the couch and stared out the large windows into the night. In the far distance I could see the large and rather ominous red Verizon check-swoosh on the side of their skyscraper. I walked over to the curtain and swung it across that part of the view. Indulging in my apathy and abhorrence, I pondered what I was doing to help with the state of the world. 

            What could I possibly do to make a difference in this world? I felt small and worthless…and wasn’t political.  How could I serve humanity and the Earth more than just recycling glass bottles? I truly felt at a loss so I sat on the couch wishing I had some chocolate or or a cold Shiner Bock or I don’t even know. 

            I could see what my mother was trying to tell me—that you don’t have to be a Tibetan Lama but you have to pull your weight and influence and affect those around you. Otherwise you’re just the bump on the log, existing for yourself. Take your attention off your stress of seeking to help and put that energy into action. But what the hell did that even mean to someone like me. Who and what was I even and what were my peers and what were the incredibly privileged women I met every day up to. I needed proof around me. 

            I stood up and flung myself onto my big bed and metaphorically twiddled my thumbs. I buried my head deep under my five pillows and pumped my legs up and down, wondering if that counted for exercise. And then in a flash I went crazy. I jumped up and went over to my computer. I googled PETA. I googled WWF. I googled Sierra Club. I made a new bookmarks bar in my browser and labeled it ROSALIE’S CAUSES. I spent the next four hours obtaining memberships and sending fairly miniscule donations to the Surfrider Foundation, Plant a Tree a Month Club, Stop Clubbing Seals petition, Stop the Thai & Eastern European Sex Trade, Ending Domestic Violence in Taiwan, Red Cross, Women in the Arts, Protect the Elderly Geriatric Foundation, Protecting Hawaii’s Monk Seals, Save The Indigenous Coffee Growers of Columbia Trade, Italians Against Deportation, The Aboriginal Minority Music Coalition, and Support Fijians Democratic Rights: End the Coup. I gave my primary and secondary email address to everyone. I wrote letters with the words, “Please let me know what I can do and feel free to pass on my contact info to your regional offices. I am available to volunteer immediately.”

            I read blogs about eco-building materials. I read blogs about killer algae ravishing the west coast. I signed thirty-seven petitions on thepetitionsite.com on everything from stopping the SuperFerry in Hawaii to stopping the transport of horses to foreign countries for slaughter. I forwarded it to all twelve hundred people on my email list.  I posted comments on the yoga journal blogs. I ordered bamboo spun t-shirts made from a remote village.  I read NYT’s editorial after editorial. I watched YouTube after YouTube of animals being skinned alive. Of children dying of starvation. Of young girls being bargained for. Of Illegal Aliens being shot with rubber bullets. With real bullets. Of the icebergs melting some more. Of the polar bear drowning because he’s swimming for nonexistent icebergs (Jesus, did this one get me). The anger and frustration continued. I put on Moby’s “Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad,” lit incense and waved it in the direction of Manhattan.

            Pious and yearning to change everything wrong in the world within the next twelve hours, I flipped off all the lights and sat there, in the dark, staring at the red check that glowed through the curtain. I wanted meaning. There had to be more than just this mediocre reality. What brings a woman to slap her child, hard, on the head at the beach?  What brings a woman to the point of hating her own daughter and ridiculing her in public to complete strangers who want to take all her money? What brings a woman to drop three thousand dollars on a cheaply made black velour and red feather bedroom robe? Who in the hell did I think I was? And most of all, why was I—at the bottom of it, just focused on myself figuring it out for myself? Not Jack’s. Not Momoko. Not Bianca. Did this mean I didn't love them? Did it mean I was being responsible and trying to figure it out for myself, where I fit in to this tangled web here? 

            My mother was instructing me to be more selfless but I didn’t feel like I could be. Who was going to take care of me other than me? How could I trust anyone or anything to be there when so far, it was very apparent one had to always take responsibility for herself?  I thought about Jack and wondered if he thought about these things. I didn’t even know the person I had sex with. I didn’t know Momoko or Bianca.  A lot of days I didn’t know who stared back out at me when I was brushing my teeth in the mornings, or when I caught my reflection on the subway windowpanes as it rushed under the East River.   I didn’t agree with or believe any of it. I wanted to run a bath but felt too guilty about wasting all that water. Dirty and fumbling in the darkness, I found the door and stepped out, heading for The Archive.

                                                                        ***

            In sweatpants and ratty college sweater, I dragged myself into the coffee shop for a Cup O’ Noodles.  As I swung open the door, I realized the book club, Brooklyn’s Finest, was just wrapping up.  And there was August, looking so fuckable I could just have laid down on the coffee table right there..  I simultaneously forgot all my woes as I slow-blinked myself for not remembering that tonight they would meet here.

            He looked up, saw me, did a casual wave.  I casually waved back and then turned toward the menu as my cheeks began to flush.

            “Rosalie.”

            He called out my name and I had no choice but to turn around. As he motioned me to walk over to the group, I noticed his navy blue cashmere sweater. It looked so cozy.  I could just crawl in there until the red check swoosh burned out and didn’t block my view anymore. Only the sweater looked cozy. Not him. He looked, well, like a scruffy king from the Middle Ages. Full of scruff. Face scruff, hair scruff, in general, just a lot of scruff.  Didn’t he know what a barber shop was?

            “How’s it going?” With one hand, I casually tried to fix the rats’ nest my hair had become over the course of my night and held out my other hand to August. “Nice to see you again.”  I smiled tough as he took my hand and shook it: just because he was cute and in my local coffee shop and called out my name and is wearing the most delicious looking sweater of all time and wants me to join his book club does not mean weakness would overcome me and sacrilege my relationship to Jack with petty flirting. So I was a basic flirter. So what. Who wasn't. What Libra-Leo-Gemini wasn't you tell me. 

            “Good to see you, too.  Everyone, this is Rosalie and she’s going to join Brooklyn’s Finest.”

            He introduced me and everyone said hello.  I then went to say hello, but nothing came out. My palms began to sweat. Everyone stared at me.  I tried to speak again. Nothing.

            “Hi.” I managed to squeak out. I can’t believe I was this embarrassed.  I talk to strangers all day for a living. I even hustled them.  This August thing had to stop as it was obviously reducing me to fourth-grade communication levels.

            “So.” He paused and stared at me, up and down. “What’re you doing here at this time of night?”

            I did a fake yawn. “I was just getting some soup and then heading off to bed.” Oh God, did he think I was here to ‘casually’ run into him?   “I live around the corner, so, this is, like, where I tend to go, when I need a break.”  Out of nervousness, I did my smoothe operator slow blink.

            He squinted at me. “Is there something wrong with your eye or are you jsut slow blinking me again.”

            “No.” I stared wide back into his blue lagoons, willing myself not to blink. 

            Awkwardness ensued.  Then he stood up and peered over me.  My, was he tall. This fact had escaped me until now. He deadpanned me yet again with his smouldering blue eyes.  All I could do was stare at him and his eyes.

            Must. Not. Fold. Into. Petty. Flirting. Does he want me to fuck him? Why is he flirting with me so bad. He clearly thinks I'm single by the way I am pathetically flirting with him. Okay, we all have this horrible thing that happens with people we don't even know, where we get so hyped about them for zero reasons as if there weren't millions of good looking people in New York on every block. For fucksake Rosalie Rhiannon Meredith get a fucking grip.

            “I’m gonna go order.”  Before he could answer, I turned and got in the order line.  Then my phone started buzzing in my pocket. It was Jack.  Shit! I’d forgotten to call him back. I picked up.

            “Hey Baby! I’m so sorry! My mother called after I texted you and, well, hours later, here I am, totally spent and all for naught.”

            He laughed.

            I placed my order at the counter and was able to laugh off my meager attempts at saving the world, knowing full well that a few dollars here or there wouldn’t amount to much.  “Just getting some soup at the coffee shop before I turn in.” I put my hair into a lumpy ponytail.

            “Okay, my little fuck toy. I wish I was there to tuck you in.”

            “Me too.”

            “Promise to sleep over tomorrow?”

            “I’m looking forward to it.”

            “Good. Me too.”

            I hung up and picked up my to-go soup at the counter. I turned around, expecting that August would maybe want to talk with me some more before I left.  But, he had his back to me, his earphones on, and was on his computer.